Grayson urges Saints to stay cool
April 27, 2007
Northampton boss Paul Grayson has called for a calm and calculated approach when the Saints play for their Guinness Premiership lives tomorrow.
Saints, European champions seven years ago, must beat Franklin's Gardens visitors London Irish to have any realistic chance of avoiding a humiliating drop into National League One.
Even an emphatic bonus point win though, is unlikely to be sufficient if 11th-placed Worcester - currently one point above Northampton - defeat Saracens at Sixways.
Relegation could cost Saints around PS2million in revenue, and rumours are rife among supporters the club could swoop for ex-Wasps rugby director Warren Gatland, currently in charge of New Zealand provincial side Waikato, next season.
Grayson, who signed a long-term contract last year, is not thought to be under pressure for his coaching role, although some tough decisions will inevitably be made when Saints directors meet on Monday morning.
Northampton have recorded one league victory since Christmas - away to Leicester - although Irish will arrive without injured playmakers Mike Catt and Shane Geraghty, and they are already guaranteed a sixth-place finish.
Grayson said: ``The top sides think their way through a game and use the passion to get them over the edge in the big matches.
``That is exactly how we have to be this weekend, and have fingers crossed for results elsewhere.
``One thing that is certain, however, is the boys will do their utmost to achieve the win. Their commitment to playing through the pain barrier has been shown through the season.
``Everyone in the squad knows what this game means to the club and the supporters, and are focused on getting the win.
``London Irish are a good side, though, and we shouldn't forget that. They have finished in the top six again and have a dangerous set of runners out wide, so we have to make sure our defence are on their game as well.''
Irish fully anticipate the kitchen sink to come at them, with rugby director Brian Smith admitting: ``Northampton have everything to play for, so we are expecting plenty of fireworks in the early stages.
``No doubt it will be a case of backs to the wall, but we are dangerous on the counter-attack and they will have to guard against that.''
Worcester have only experienced relegation once before - 18 years ago when they played midlands regional league rugby - but Warriors rugby director John Brain is banking on the Sixways factor to help them through their final test of a demanding season.
Brain said: ``The crowd can be worth six or seven points to us as a team.
``I can remember the atmosphere when we played in a similar game against Northampton a few seasons ago. It was spine-tingling stuff, and I would hope tomorrow will be the same, if not better.
``The supporters have been tremendous, both home and away, I can't thank them enough, and I would just ask for one final big push against Saracens.''
Brain though, knows Saracens have no intention of playing second fiddle, especially as victory for Alan Gaffney's men would guarantee a play-off place for the first time and represent their highest Premiership finish since 2000.
Brain added: ``Saracens are a quality team and are in form, but we know if we win then we will more than likely stay up.
``They are possibly the biggest test that we have faced in a long while. They are up there with Gloucester and Leicester when it comes to attacking play.
``We are under no illusions of the threat they pose. They will come to Sixways to score four tries and get the bonus point.
``It is a massive test for our defence, but one I believe we can answer.''
Gaffney has recalled prolific tryscorer Kameli Ratuvou following his recovery from a hamstring injury, with Saracens aware they could secure a home play-off tie by winning and collecting a bonus point.
Gaffney said: ``It is a massive game for both clubs, and the rewards are there for all to see. Worcester are playing for their lives, but we also have plenty to play for.
``We've got to go there and look to win the game. We cannot sit back, because the last thing we want to be doing is relying upon other results to make the top four.
``We have to go there to play rugby and be positive.''
Worcester and Northampton are separated by one point ahead of the final round of matches in the Guinness Premiership.
Going into tomorrow's games, with Worcester facing Saracens at Sixways and Northampton at home to London Irish, one of the sides will be relegated, with National One winners Leeds taking their place.
Worcester should stay up if they win unless bonus points and a mathematical miracle save Northampton. A Worcester defeat and a Northampton win would keep
Coach: John Brain
Star player: Shane Drahm, scored 149 out of 324 points this season.
Worcester won promotion to the Premiership after coming top of the 2003/4 National Division with maximum points (26 wins in 26 games).
They stayed up in 2004/5 against all the odds and made the final of the European Shield, losing to French club Auch.
The club have gained planning permission from Wychavon District Council for a PS23million development of their Sixways stadium.
League position: 11th
Final fixture: Saracens (h)
Coach: Paul Grayson
Star player: Mark Robinson, scored seven tries this season.
Four Northampton players were World Cup winners in 2003: Matt Dawson, Paul Grayson, Steve Thompson and Ben Cohen.
After a dismal start to the 2005/6 term, the Saints turned things around to finish sixth, guaranteeing Heineken Cup rugby for the following season.
Despite a very disappointing season in 2006/7, Northampton got through to the semi-final of the Heineken Cup, but lost to Wasps 30-13.
League position: 12th (bottom)
Prediction: Worcester, who face the tougher fixture, lose and are relegated. Northampton win and stay up.
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales